Copenhagen: The Perfect, the Good, and the Ugly

Via Nathan Smith
on Dec 9, 2009
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Yesterday, I thought Copenhagen was going to be all about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. James Rachels, whom I admire enormously, had written a piece in the NYTimes arguing against cap and trade, a piece called “Cap and Fade.” I think cap and trade is a really clever idea that places real caps on carbon emissions (the enemy), while fitting into the current free market paradigm. And Paul Krugman agrees with me (or I agree with him, I always forget). And I really think it could work. Though there are many who disagree.

Hansen disagrees. He argues for a much more robust and populist scenario: place a gradually rising fee on all carbon that we take out of the ground, then distribute the proceeds of that tax as a “dividend” to everyone. It’s basically a nice save the planet, steal from the rich, given to the poor scenario. I love it but think it’s a pipe dream. So I argue back and forth with myself: this scenarios is better, but that one is possible…

Then, today, I confront: this, this, this, this, and this. And I wake up from my daydream into the reality of politics. We’re talking LOTS of money and power and oil and lives (probably in that order) that could be endangered based on the outcome of this deal. And suddenly I realize that our enemy is not the perfect, but the ugly. We can only hope that there will be something coming out of Copenhagen that moves us in the right direction, something binding, and something that provides protections for the least advantaged among us…

But who knows.


About Nathan Smith

Nathan Smith is a philosophy professor at Houston Community College - Northwest. He's a father of two and husband to fellow elephant columnist, Joana Smith. As a philosopher, he specializes in Descartes, the philosophy of mind, and phenomenology. He's interested in all kinds of things, but he blogs primarily about politics, spirituality, and good, green living. Follow him on twitter @smithnd. And share your thoughts in the comments; he doesn't bite.


One Response to “Copenhagen: The Perfect, the Good, and the Ugly”

  1. […] cohesive demonstrations of humans coming together for the common good. People may rail against the shortcomings of market-based strategies such as carbon regulation, and the promotion of self-interest such solutions can instigate, […]